I left St. Petersburg feeling sad, to be quite honest. I was leaving my motherland (let me hold onto this possible lie my mother told me about my ancestry) and going to Finland, a country I really didn’t know anything about.
I am so glad I was proven wrong.
In short, I simply loved the feeling of Helsinki. I’m so fond of the city now. You know how every city has its own vibe, its own energy? Whatever that feeling was in Helsinki, I drank it up and reveled in it, despite the drizzly weather. (If it wasn’t so drizzly, we would have seen the sun rise at 4:30 AM and set at 10:30 PM. WHAT.)
Helsinki is where we started getting real with hop-on/hop-off buses, aka ho-ho buses. We got off our cruise ship and were greeted with this fun pink butterfly campaign for tourists, which I thought was SO cute.
Being greeted with this view of the sea helped boost my first impression of Helsinki as well. It was such a perfect day. I just remember… loving the feeling of Helsinki. The energy of the people, the personality of the city. I loved it much more than I thought I would, and I came away so pleasantly surprised by how wonderful Helsinki is. Maybe it was the result of having such loooooong daylight hours in the Scandinavian summer. The day we were in Helsinki, the sun rose at 4:30 AM and set at 10:30 PM. Imagine going outside at 10 PM and the sun hasn’t even begun to set. I remember thinking that the people were incredibly friendly but kept the thought in the back of my mind that they might be a lot grouchier in the winter, when the sun comes up around after 9 and is down before 4. But on this magnificent day, everyone smiled and was extremely friendly.
We visited the 1952 Helsinki Olympic stadium, and got to go up to the very top of the very tall tower.
After a trip to the weirdly fancy and nice bathroom (can’t quite describe how it was fancy but… it was), we got to go into the stadium and it was awesome.
After proving the theory that a delayed bus only comes after a) I have walked away b) far enough that I have to run back to catch it (this theory has been proven right every time so far), we explored some of the sites that we saw on our first loop of the ho/ho bus.
Climbed allllllll these steps to enjoy a peaceful moment in Helsinki Cathedral while it sprinkled just the barest bit of rain outside.
We walked the quiet but still lively streets of Helsinki and grabbed some lunch at an open-air market. It seemed to be catering mostly to tourists but eh, I didn’t mind at all and was more than happy to be a tourist.
Also, I saw maybe one of my FAVORITE churches of the whole trip, and as you recall, I saw a lot lot of churches. I mean, I already saw the Helsinki Cathedral.
This, my dear friends, is Temppeliaukio Church, aka Church of the Rock. It was carved out of solid rock. It feels like you’re in a cave, except there’s daylight pouring in from all sides. The roof is copper coiled around itself thousands of times.
Easily one of the most unique churches I’ve ever seen in my life. Also, the acoustics are amazing in here because of the rock walls.
DEFINITELY visit if you are in Helsinki. While you’re there, you should also visit the Sibelius Monument, dedicated to composer Jean Sibelius.
Also, random thing, but I noticed a lot of cafes where you could eat al fresco had all the chairs facing the road? I saw this a few other times in Europe but it was definitely super apparent in Helsinki.
Here’s a few more photos from my time in Helsinki, including a lot of STRANGE Helsinki-ans in the streets I spotted.
So fond of Helsinki, truly. I hope I get to go back someday.